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The Real South Park

A letter from the editor of our August 2017 issue.

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When the history of the United States in the early 21st century is written, scholars would be wise to note the work of two quintessentially American purveyors of popular culture: Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The Colorado kids birthed the hilariously offensive Tony Award–winning musical The Book of Mormon and, of course, the hilariously offensive Comedy Central cartoon South Park, which turns 20 this month. The “kick-ass mountain town” of South Park, as the characters call it—along with a variety of other choice adjectives—is a fictional place, the environs in which Parker and Stone set their absurd, satirical plots. But the real South Park, a high-elevation basin home to small towns such as Fairplay and Hartsel, is more than just the “Podunk” stereotype the show evokes. It is this unique part of Colorado celebrated author Ted Conover exalts in his essay “My South Park.” Conover’s love affair with the austere region, a short drive southwest of Denver, began when he was a teenager living in the Mile High City and deepened over the years during frequent trips back from the East Coast. His essay, Conover’s first piece for 5280, is a poignant meditation on the meaning of place—in particular, a place that’s not as conventionally beautiful as, say, Telluride or Aspen—and how these locales become the settings in which our friendships, loves, adventures, and struggles unfold. The imaginary South Park may be an “old-fashioned, hayseed, inbred, unkempt” town, in the words of Cartman and Co.; the region Conover portrays so fondly is anything but. And, indeed, he convincingly makes the case that this unheralded part of Colorado may be one of the state’s true treasures.

This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of .

Geoff Van Dyke, Editorial Director

Geoff Van Dyke oversees editorial for 5280 Magazine and 5280.com and is the editorial director of 5280 Publishing. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffVanDyke

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